Mob Boss? Slime Ball? Trump, Comey Trade Barbs Near Book Release
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump blasted James Comey as a “slime ball” as the former FBI director said that to this day he doesn’t know if salacious accusations involving Moscow prostitutes in a controversial dossier on Trump are true.
Comey revealed that the president -- whom he likens in a new book to a Mob boss -- at one point last year mulled asking the bureau to investigate the allegation.
Trump fought back on Twitter Friday morning after excerpts of Comey’s first TV interview were aired, labeling the man he fired as “a proven LEAKER & LIAR” and saying that “virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did until he was, in fact, fired.”
Comey said in excerpts of an ABC News interview aired on “Good Morning America” Friday that Trump repeatedly asked about the dossier’s unverified allegations that Russians had videotape of a 2013 encounter with prostitutes in Moscow during the Miss Universe pageant involving urination.
Trump was briefed by Comey before his inauguration about the allegations and immediately went into damage control mode, Comey said. The lawman said he told Trump, “I’m not saying we credit this. I’m not saying we believe it. We just thought it was important that you know.”
In a subsequent meeting with Trump, Comey said the president worried about a “1 percent chance” that First Lady Melania Trump would believe the reports were true.
“I remember thinking ‘how can your wife think there’s a 1 percent chance you were with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow?’” Comey said. “I’m a flawed human being, but there’s literally zero chance that my wife would think that was true. So what kind of marriage to what kind of man does your wife think there’s only a 99 percent chance you didn’t do that?”
The White House fired back within moments.
"One of the few areas of true bipartisan consensus in Washington is Comey has no credibility," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a Twitter posting.
Trump didn’t mince words, calling Comey an “untruthful slime ball” on Twitter. “His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst “botch jobs” of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!”
Throughout the new book, “A Higher Loyalty,” Comey portrays Trump as a liar (“it was a lie” to say Trump’s inauguration crowd was bigger than Barack Obama’s), dumb (when Comey referred to a calligrapher’s work on a White House menu, “he looked quizzical. ‘They write them by hand,’ he repeated”) and rude (“I don’t use the word ‘conversation’ because the term doesn’t apply when one person speaks nearly the entire time.”)
At one point, Comey describes Trump’s manner of speaking as “an oral jigsaw puzzle contest, with a shot clock.”
Trump waged a months-long effort to try to secure the Comey’s loyalty after taking office in January 2017, behavior similar to that of an underworld leader, Comey writes in the book, due to be published Tuesday.
Comey writes that when Trump demanded loyalty from him at a White House dinner, “The demand was like Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony.” That was a reference to the mobster Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, whose testimony helped convict John Gotti, the leader of New York’s Gambino crime family.
Encounters with the president, Comey wrote, gave him “flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”
Trump eventually fired Comey in May, an action that helped lead to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The investigation by Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election is reviewing whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey, and through other actions.
Comey provides new details of his dismissal. He said then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly — who’s now Trump’s chief of staff — offered to resign out of a sense of disgust over how Comey was fired.
Kelly told him that he “intended to quit in protest” because “he didn’t want to work for dishonorable people who would treat someone like me in such a manner,” Comey wrote.
Comey expresses some regrets over his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
One of the most consequential actions during his tenure as FBI director came when he took it upon himself to publicly announce in July 2016 that the FBI wouldn’t recommend charging Clinton for compromising classified information by using a private email system.
Comey said he felt obligated to become the public face of the investigation in part because of something involving then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which he refers to as a “development still unknown to the American public to this day.” Comey asserts that he didn’t sense Lynch interfered with the investigation.
He also said he shouldn’t have used the term “extremely careless” to describe Clinton’s behavior because it too closely mirrors the term “grossly negligent,” which is the legal standard for prosecution.
Comey writes that his public handling of the Clinton case may have been swayed by his assumption -- bolstered by public polling at the time -- that she would win the election and then be damaged as president. “Certainly not consciously, but I would be a fool to say it couldn’t have had an impact on me,” Comey wrote.
Comey also recalled a January 2017 briefing he and other officials gave to Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and incoming White House aides Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer about Russia’s interference in the election.
Comey expressed shock that they quickly focused on “how they could spin what we’d just told them,” debating “how to position these findings for maximum political advantage.”
“I sat there thinking, Holy crap, they are trying to make each of us ‘amica nostra’ -– friend of ours. To draw us in,” Comey writes. “As crazy as it sounds, I suddenly had the feeling that, in the blink of an eye, the president-elect was trying to make us all part of the same family and that Team Trump had made it a ‘thing of ours,’” Comey added, using a term for the mafia.
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